The Best Historic Architecture in Andalusia
Seville Cathedral, Seville: This is the largest Gothic structure on the planet and the third-largest church in Europe, topped only by St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London. "Let us build a cathedral so immense that everyone on beholding it will take us for madmen," the chaplain said when workers were tearing down an ancient mosque to erect this splendid edifice. This cathedral is one of the last to be built in the Gothic style, but it also shows obvious Renaissance motifs. Works of art abound, including magnificent stained-glass windows from the 15th century, and art by such Spanish masters as Goya, Murillo, and Zurbarán.
Giralda Tower, Seville: Next to the cathedral, this Muslim tower conjures up Seville as the Eiffel Tower does Paris. It was constructed in the 12th century, modeled after the Koutoubia in Marrakech and the Hassan Tower in Rabat. Amazingly, the Christian overlords allowed this Moorish tower to stand with certain alterations. The top story -- which has a Renaissance motif and was added in the 16th century -- affords one of the greatest city views in all of Spain.
Alcázar, Seville: Constructed north of the cathedral by Pedro the Cruel, this splendid 14th-century Mudéjar palace is the oldest European royal residence that is still in use. Residents Ferdinand and Isabella, who received Columbus here, greatly influenced its architecture. Remains of the original Alcázar of the Almohads coexist with centuries of ornate pavilions, fountains, pools, patios, and ornamental gardens. Moorish influences join forces with Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque elements, yet it all melds with harmonious charm.
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, Córdoba: One of Spain's greatest examples of military architecture was commissioned in 1328 by Alfonso XI. Ferdinand and Isabella lived at this fortress on the Río Guadalquivir while they made plans to send their armies to conquer Granada. The complex is distinguished by its towers, Torre de los Leones and Torre de Homenaje, the former containing intricately carved ogival ceilings that are the most notable examples of Gothic architecture in Andalusia. A vast architectural complex of landscaping, fountains, and pools, the gardens are a tribute to their Moorish origins.
Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba, Córdoba: This 1,200-year-old masterwork by a succession of caliphs is one of the architectural wonders of Europe. Its interior is a virtual forest of pillars, red-and-white candy-striped Moorish arches, and rows of columns stretching in every direction. In the midst of it all is a florid cathedral in a Gothic and Renaissance architectural motif. This wonder is the third-largest mosque in the world, even though it hasn't been used as such since 1236.
The Alhambra, Granada: Set against the snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the Alhambra is one of the most fabled landmarks in the world and the single-most visited attraction in all of Andalusia. It was the last bastion of luxury living for the Nasrid kings, the last Muslim rulers of Spain, and their harems filled with dancing girls. The palace-fortress is girded by more than 1.6km (1 mile) of ramparts, enclosing a virtual royal city comprised of three palaces, with courtyards, fountains, fanciful halls, and scalloped windows framing vistas.
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